Aqueduct Horses in Focus for Friday, March 18

RACE 5: CHAYSENBRYN (#3)

#4 Amity Island is the horse to beat as she drops back down in class to face claimers after a series of races against tougher company. She actually did quite well after getting claimed by Horacio De Paz last year, winning a NY-bred allowance event in December. However, she was simply overmatched in her last two starts, one of which came against stakes company. This drop makes sense for a filly who had previously been effective at similar levels. That said, it is possible that her form is tailing off and the connections could have waited for a $40k claimer to get written. I prefer her main rival #3 Chaysenbryn. Her recent speed figures are obviously inferior to those of Amity Island, but I think her overall form is better than it looks. Since she did well here last winter, she’s raced in a pair of sprints, one of which came following a 7-month layoff. Both of those races featured extremely slow paces, so she had little chance to get involved. She finally landed in a more favorable spot last time, but she didn’t get an ideal trip. She appeared to get discouraged behind a wall of horses around the far turn and didn’t find a clear path until the three-sixteenths pole. She really took off in the late stages once she found daylight and was quickly closing in on today’s rival #5 Sweet Mission late. I prefer Chaysenbryn out of that race and think she can beat this field with another slight step forward.

RACE 7: LEELOO (#7)

#2 Bank On Anna could go favored here off her impressive 6-length maiden score in January. However, it must be noted that she benefited from a gold rail early in that race. She did drift well off the inside path in the stretch, but her advantage was already conveyed early in the race. I still think Bank On Anna is a talented filly, as she had arguably run the better race against today’s rival Thinking It Over in her career debut last year. She could play out as the controlling speed here and merits respect, though I don’t necessarily want her as the favorite. Her biggest rival appears to be #7 Leeloo, who earned this race’s top TimeformUS Speed Figure (92) when she broke her maiden last December. That victory was achieved in the slop, but I don’t think she’s necessarily some wet track lover. She had a legitimate excuse when she lost the Franklin Square as the favorite, since she was racing 3-wide against a strong rail bias – the same rail bias that benefited Bank On Anna earlier in the card. Leeloo can certainly bounce back in this spot and she’s drawn well outside of her main pace rivals. Ray Handal may send out the biggest threats to that pair. #5 Thinking It Over is far from impossible as she turns back in distance. However, she was somewhat fortunate in her debut, and then benefited from a rail bias in the Franklin Square. I’m most interested in #3 Ribot’s Valentine. She finished over 7 lengths behind Leeloo in her career debut, but she obviously improved with that run under her belt in her second career start. She traveled well throughout in that Jan. 8 event, and sailed clear to a commanding victory. She missed a bit of time since then, getting in just two workouts between starts. That’s a minor concern, and it is a little interesting that Dylan Davis lands on Handal’s other runner rather than her, though Trevor McCarthy is an ample substitute. I’d let price be my guide when deciding between these two top picks.

RACE 9: BANKERS DAUGHTER (#7)

This race centers around a couple of 5-year-old mares who haven’t shown much affinity for winning races. The more notorious of those is #4 Snicket, who has compiled 9 second-place finishes to go along with her single victory in 19 career starts. She’s been in her fair share of races that she should have won and she just loves to settle for second. She never got the chance display her hanging talents as the 4-5 favorite last time, as she parted ways with Dylan Davis coming out of the gate. She’s landed in a tougher spot at the same level here, but she is once again the horse to beat. Yet I prefer her main rival #7 Bankers Daughter, who has shown some of the same tendencies to hang at times in her career. That said, I think Bankers Daughter at her best is a more naturally talented dirt sprinter than Snicket. She faced some decent fields at this level when she was in her prime during late 2020 and into the spring of 2021. The problem is that she’s been pulled up across the wire in two of her last three starts. Something clearly went wrong with her early last year, but the connections have given her plenty of time to recuperate. If she’s going to run well again, she’s likely to do so fresh, as she did last April. She shows a steady pattern of workouts for her return, indicating that there haven’t been too many hiccups getting her back on track. If she shows up, I think she’s supposed to beat this field. #2 Pretty Clever did have some trouble after the start of her last race, but she was also with the track bias, racing outside avoiding a dead rail. The more interesting alternative to the favorites might be #5 Big Al’s Gal. She’s had subtle excuses in recent starts, as she was on a dead rail three back on Dec. 19, and then was compromised by an awkward trip behind a slow pace last time. She has to break cleanly and improve slightly against this field, but Antonio Arriaga has strong stats second off the claim. She’s worth including at the right price.

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